Subjects: Labor’s dismantling OSB
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, good morning. Today is the day that the Labor government has dismantled Operation Sovereign Borders. Now, in the lead up to the election, Labor wasn’t even clear exactly what Operation Sovereign Borders were, but there are three key pillars for Operation Sovereign Borders. Labor has damaged two of those. The first pillar that it really quite lackadaisical with was the regional processing centre designation for Nauru. So regional processing countries are very important to be designated. Labor left that to lapse. Last week we saw the Minister for Home Affairs rush into the chamber to try and patch the hole that she had created in Operation Sovereign Borders and the key pillar of regional processing countries. What we’ve seen today is an announcement that temporary protection visas will no longer apply to those who came here prior to 2013 and the same for SHEVs. They need to go through a process, where they can apply for permanency here in Australia. So that is effectively the end of Operation Sovereign Borders. So Labor cannot, with any credibility, stand up and say Operation Sovereign Borders remains in place because it very clearly doesn’t, the biggest risk is that this will enliven opportunities for people’s smugglers. Now, when I was the Minister for Home Affairs, I was prepared to do all that I possibly could to make sure that people did not risk their lives trying to come to Australia by boat. I did not want anyone to die at sea on my watch, and fortunately no one did. But what we have seen is about one boat a month being intercepted as people attempt to come to Australia, we also know that there have been dozens of boats that have been incepted by the Sri Lankan Navy and that hundreds of people have been returned to Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan Navy. So we know that people smugglers are keen to test the water. So what Labor has done now is that they have demolished Operation Sovereign Borders. They have put our border policy at risk. Our very strong borders that were established under the Coalition Government are now at risk. So I have great concerns. Now, the timing of this is clearly very curious because it was last week that Clare O’Neil went into the chamber to rectify the gaping hole that she’d left by making sure that Nauru once again became a regional processing country. And then the week later we had the announcement in relation to TPVs and SHEVs. It seems extraordinarily coincidental to say the least that the timing is such. I’m happy to take questions.
QUESTION: If this only applies to those who arrived before Sovereign Borders started, and TPVs will still exist in the statute books, why would it restart the boats? Is that enough? Not enough of a Disincentive?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, there’s two things that I would say in response to that, I mean, firstly, we need a very clear statement from Labor that they will continue to use temporary protection visas and that they will apply for people who attempt to arrive illegally in Australia. That statement has not been made crystal clear. I think the other thing, and potentially a very important thing for the people smugglers is that they will look very, very closely at what the deterrents are. Now what has been announced today is that for those people who arrived prior to 2013, they will have the opportunity for permanency here in Australia. The people smugglers will be able to use that piece of information to say, look, it started. It started and this will just continue. So they will be able to convince people that it is worth the risk. And that is particularly concerning. Now, as I’ve said, one a month, one a month since Labor’s been in in government, that’s the number of boats that are been turned back from Australia. What is Labor gonna do when there’s an armada heading this way? They’ve been able to deal with one at a time, but if they get an influx of boats coming this way, what are they going to do? I don’t have any confidence in their ability to deal with it because two out of three of the pillars of Operation Sovereign Borders have been fundamentally damaged by their policies.
QUESTION: Have labor briefed you about this application process in terms of why they might refuse TPV holders permanency and what happens to those people if they don’t get permanency?
KAREN ANDREWS: No.
QUESTION: Okay. Are those, are those open questions, do you think that that is, that that’s been explained adequately by the government?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, Labor has shown no willingness to work with the Coalition on matters of border security, where clearly the Coalition has an extensive history of being able to secure Australia’s orders. Labor has made the decision to go it alone, and that has been extraordinarily unsuccessful so far. I’m not surprised that the ministers responsible chose not to brief me, but we are here today to make sure that they are held to account.
QUESTION: Many of these people have been left in limbo for many years. Is That acceptable?
KAREN ANDREWS: Obviously, we are, all Australians are always concerned about making sure that people are treated humanely, but the balance has to be keeping Australia’s borders strong and to make sure that no people risk their lives to come to Australia by boat. Now, I remember watching the stories of people being plucked out of the water where their boats had basically disintegrated. And I really wonder if the ministers responsible spoke to the officials who were out there day after day, picking bodies out of the water, because if they haven’t, they should have because that may well have affected how they decided they were going to be deal with border security here in Australia.
QUESTION: And just to clarify, would you support this move if the government can guarantee that people from now on who try to come here will be given tpvs?
KAREN ANDREWS: I don’t see how they can guarantee it because they’ve opened the gate. Okay. This is the thin edge of the wedge. It’s now permanency for people, for those that have arrived before 2013, the pressure will now be on. And, I don’t know that Labor’s got the strength that it needs to be able to stand up to what’s going to be coming their way.
QUESTION: Do you think the system should remain as is or do you think there should be any changes?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the system should remain as it was under the Coalition government, not the broken system that Labor’s now overseeing what should happen to the people who came after that deadline, there should be absolutely no changes to Operation Sovereign Borders as it was under the Coalition Government. And that would mean that people who came here would remain on temporary protection visas. But those people who came here illegally should be departing the country as soon as they possibly can. Thank you.